The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has c alled on the Nigerian Senate to jettison its ongoing effort to change the country’s anti-corruption laws.
A civil society group, Transition Monitoring Group, also pushed a similar position.
In separate statements released on Sunday, the groups said even though the National Assembly has the constitutional duty to amend laws, they found it suspicious that lawmakers were trying to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act as well as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act at a time the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was facing criminal prosecution.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in calling on the National Assembly to end further deliberation on the controversial bills, said: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress hold the view that the noble intention of the Senate notwithstanding, the timing is suspect and fraught with danger.”
“It is quite intriguing that it took the trial of the Senate President for the Senate to discover these flaws in the law(s). Putting it bluntly, in spite of the spirited defences by the Deputy Senate President to the contrary , not a few believe that this legislative move is a desperate attempt to scuttle the trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, at CCT,” he said.
The TMG in a statement signed by its chairman, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, called on Nigerians to resist alleged criminalisation of the legislature by Mr. Saraki.
“While it is true that the legislature is empowered by the 1999 Constitution as amended to make laws for the good governance of the nation, it is immoral and unacceptable to deploy legislative powers to further personal ends.
“As far as we are concerned, Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is his personal business. It is therefore a vexatious affront on the sensibilities of the Nigerian people that the weight of the entire legislature would be brought to bear in this disturbing attempt at giving him political rehabilitation. TMG frowns at this gangster approach to legislative business. While we commend the symbolic gesture of those legislators who have tried to distance themselves from this show of shame, we call on all members of the National Assembly, who still have any iota of credibility and good conscience to step up the pressure by teaming up with all pro-people forces, to end this charade.
“In the face of this desecration of the legislature as an institution by Saraki and his co-travellers, we call on the Nigerian people not to remain ambivalent. This is the time for the long suffering people of Nigeria to raise their voices.”
In its reaction, the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, urged Nigerians to rise and resist attempts by the Senate to scuttle Mr. Saraki’s trial through the current amendment process.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, David Ugolor, said coming shortly after the recent failed attempt at the Federal High Court and the Supreme Court to stop the trial, the amendment amounted to abuse of court process.
Apart from the false asset declaration, Mr. Ugolor said, Mr. Saraki had also been fingered in the recent Panama Papers leak among Nigerians in high places operating subsidiary companies in tax havens like Panama and Jersey.
“ANEEJ, as well as every Nigerian, calls to question the timing of these Bills, and urges Nigerians to resist these bills. These suspicious and shambolic Bills were procured after Dr Saraki allegedly purchased and distributed 36 Land cruiser V8-Engine SUVs and distributed to senators who facilitated them,” Mr. Ugolor said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Liborus Oshoma, has also advised the National Assembly to desist from making laws that would rubbish its reputation.
“The intent of this bill may good for the plurality of Nigerians at the long run, but it’s coming at a suspicious moment and I will urge the National Assembly to abandon it for now,” Mr. Oshoma said.
The National Assembly has remained at the receiving end of a renewed public outrage since Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP-Delta State) moved a motion last week to amend the CCT and CCT Act which guides conduct of public office holders.
Many Nigerians argued that the lawmakers are trying to change the law to save one of their own, Mr. Saraki, who has been standing trial for alleged false asset declaration since September 2015.
The Senate has, however, said the amendment was necessary, as it would give all public officers coming before the tribunal a fair hearing, justice and equity, in line with Section 36 [a] of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The amendment, the lawmakers pointed out, would remove the two government agencies, which play a critical role in the administration of criminal justice system in the country, from political control.
Since the commencement of the process, the Senate has fast-tracked the amendment of the Acts through the first and second readings within 48 hours.
While speaking during debate on the Senate floor, Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti State) said, “If you don’t assist your neighbour when his house is burning, it will extend to yours.”